Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Ways of Seeing: Maps of Missouri at Jefferson College Library: 19th Century Missouri Maps

A look at maps and surveys related to the early settlement of what is now Missouri by Europeans and Americans.

19th Century Maps: Geography, Slavery, Railroads and Rivers

The 19th Century saw a revolution in the creation, publication, distribution, and expansion of map types used for exploration, settlement, navigation, extraction of natural resources,  military purposes, transportation routes, and the visual representation of social and political realities. And, ordinary Americans also became familiar with and fascinated by the ways that maps represented the rapidly changing world around them. The maps shown below are just a few of the tens of  thousands of maps created during this time. Several of the more noteworthy maps in the collection at Jefferson College are from this period.

"Cerography, or wax engraving, was introduced in America by Sidney Edwards Morse...and  first used in 1839....This was an ingenious method of making a mold from which a printing plate was cast. On a thin layer of wax applied to a copper plate, lines and symbols, and later type, were inscribed or impressed. Through the means of an electroplating process, a relief mold was produced from which single sheet maps were printed. The process was kept secret by Morse. It became more widely used after Rand Mc Nally introduced its "wax engraving process" in 1872."

Source: Library of Congress                                                          

 Image: New commercial and topographical rail road map & guide of Missouri. Asher & Adams. 1872  Image Source: Library of Congress

Maps & the Civil War

Note the presence of two maps in this well known painting. The maps are The Coast Survey Map Showing the Distribution of Slaves  and a Map of the State of Virginia.

This map influenced the North's opinions about slavery, had a significant impact on President Lincoln, and provided essential information to the Union in its military efforts.

Image: "First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln" by Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830 - 1900), 1864.

Image Source: U.S. Senate

U.S. Coast Survey Map--Missouri

"President Thomas Jefferson established the Survey of the Coast in 1807 to produce the nautical charts necessary for maritime safety, defense, and the establishment of national boundaries. By 1860, the United States Coast Survey was the government’s leading scientific agency. Teams of men were surveying coastlines, determining land elevations, and producing maps and nautical charts for an expanding nation experiencing growing trade relationships between states and with other countries. U.S. Coast Survey cartographer Edwin Hergesheimer created the 1861 map showing the density of slave population in the Southern states." Source:

This map influenced the North's opinions about slavery, had a significant impact on President Lincoln, and provided essential information to the Union in its military efforts.

Image: Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population

Image Source: NOAA Historical Charts

Mapping Slavery

Image:A View of the Slave Population of the Several Counties of Missouri, Showing the Whole Number of Slaves in Each County

Description: "This map by Leigh shows visually that Missouri was not split over slavery north to south or east to west, from 1820 and before, slavery followed the Missouri River valley and rich agricultural and industrial heartland of the state out of St. Louis, straight to Kansas City."

From Bird's-eye Views of Slavery in Missouri / by E. Leigh, M.D. St. Louis: Woods et al, 1862.

Image Source: Saint Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri Saint Louis.

Missouri Compromise & Statehood

map of disputed territory resolved in the Missouri Compromise

Image:Modern School Supply Company, and E. W. A Rowles. The comprehensive series, historical-geographical maps of the United States. [Chicago, Ill.: Modern School Supply Co, 1919] Map.

Image Source: Library of Congress

Railroads & Mapping

"Surveying and mapping activities flourished in the United States as people began moving inland over the inadequately mapped continent. The settlement of the frontier, the development of agriculture, and the exploitation of natural resources generated a demand for new ways to move people and goods from one place to another. Privately owned toll or turnpike roads were followed first by steamships on the navigable rivers and by the construction of canals and then in the 1830s by the introduction of railroads for steam-powered trains."

Source: Library of Congress: Beginnings of American Railroads

Image: "Commissioners official railway map of Missouri : showing all railway lines and stations, the county boundaries and county seats, also congressional townships, with range and township numbers ; corrected to July 15th, 1898 / commissioners Joseph Flory, chairman, T. J. Hennessey, Wm. E. McCully, James Harding, secretary."

Image Source: The State Historical Society of Missouri


Iron Mountain Railroad

Image:Map of the Texas short line: St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern, Texas & Pacific and International & Great Northern Railways.
Physical Description:1 map : col. ; 29 x 14 cm. on sheet 56 x 20 cm.Woodward, Tiernan, and Hale 1878.

Image Source:This map is part of the collection entitled: Map Collections from the University of Texas at Arlington and was provided by the University of Texas at Arlington Library to The Portal to Texas History, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries.

Ask a Librarian


1881 Missouri River

Image: Map of the Missouri River in the vicinity of Brunswick, MO, made under the direction of Major Charles R. Suter, Corp. of Eng., USA. 1881

Image Source: The State Historical Society of Missouri

The Missouri River

"The Missouri was named Peki-tan-oui on some early French maps and, later, Oumessourit; it has been nicknamed “Big Muddy” because of the amount of solid matter it carries in suspension. For millennia, the area around the upper Missouri River was home to Native American peoples....The mouth of the river was first encountered by Europeans in 1673—by the French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet while they were canoeing down the Mississippi River. In the early 1700s French fur traders began to navigate upstream. The first exploration of the river from its mouth to its headwaters was made in 1804–05 during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. For many years commerce on the river was restricted to the fur trade, and the river was little used by the earliest American settlers moving west.For the first 150 years after settlement along the river, little was done to develop the Missouri as a useful waterway or as a source of irrigation and power. In 1944 the U.S. Congress authorized a comprehensive program for flood control and water resource development in the Missouri River basin..."


Missouri 1820

Image: Shows rivers, counties, settlements. Possibly from: A general atlas containing distinct maps of all the known countries in the world / F. Lucas Jr. -- Baltimore, 1823 -- no. 73.Date: 1823 Mapmaker: Lucas, Fielding : 1781-1854. Published: Baltimore : F. Lucas

Image Source: Saint Louis Public Library's Maps of Missouri

1892 Geologic Map of Missouri

Image: Geological Map of the State of Missouri, 1892: To Accompany the Report of Frank L. Nason on the Iron Ores of Missouri, Vol. II Reports Missouri Geological Survey, 1892

Image Source: Historical Maps of Missouri, Missouri S & T

History of Geologic Mapping in the USGS